Civil Liberties
Inquest Solicitors
Inquests & Public Inquiries

Family of Lewis Skelton call for Humberside Police officer and Chief Constable to “finally admit what happened was wrong” as ‘unlawful killing’ verdict upheld by High Court

Lewis Skelton
7 min read time
23 Jan 2023

The family of a man shot dead on the streets of Hull today called on the officer who fired the fatal shots – and the Chief Constable – to ‘finally admit what happened was wrong’ after the High Court ruled that an inquest jury’s verdict of ‘unlawful killing’ would stand.

Lewis Skelton, 31, was shot dead by the officer – only ever named using the cipher ‘B50’ –on Francis Street, Hull City Centre, on the morning of November 29, 2016.

Lewis had been carrying a small axe/hatchet as he walked the streets, but had not approached or interacted with any members of the public, nor had he threatened anybody.

He was known to Humberside Police as being someone who’d had a history of mental health issues, and officers attending were told he was considered to be ‘low risk’.

Ever since the incident – more than six years ago – B50 has denied any wrongdoing, claiming he had no option but to fire the lethal shots as Mr Skelton was advancing towards three workmen, who he said could have been in imminent danger.

He and his colleague alleged Lewis had been threatening towards the officers, a claim not supported by CCTV. B50 relied on a ‘collapsing time frame’ for taking the lethal action.

On October 15, 2021, an Inquest jury unanimously found that it was more likely than not Lewis had been unlawfully killed. There was evidence (including from B50) that on Francis Street Lewis was “staggering” or “stumbling” along.

In a statement issued immediately following the Inquest, Assistant Chief Constable of Humberside Police, Chris Noble, said: “We respect the decision made by the Jury”, adding that they hoped the inquest “brought some closure” for Lewis’ family.

Yet B50 was granted permission by the High Court to bring a Judicial Review challenging that conclusion, and the Chief Constable of Humberside Police supported his case. Together they challenged the Coroner’s conduct of the hearing, claiming the summing-up of the case was deficient and that there had been insufficient evidence to leave the option of an unlawful killing conclusion to the Jury.

Today, Lord Justice Stuart-Smith and Mr Justice Fordham dismissed this challenge on all grounds, upholding the decision of the Coroner and the important conclusion of the Jury.

Officer’s allegations not supported by CCTV footage

Today’s judgment concludes the Coroner was right on the law and right on the facts. It rules he was also right to allow the Jury to consider whether Lewis was lawfully or unlawfully killed.

The judges considered the evidence on alleged threats by Lewis. The judgment says officers allegations were not supported by available CCTV footage, which captured the majority of the incident. The Court also said there was “no evidence of threatening behaviour by Mr Skelton towards the members of the public.”

The judges also state that there was evidence the three workmen were around 50-60 metres away when first noticed by the officers, had crossed the road, and that Mr Skelton was already “out on his feet”, having been tasered four times, when B50 shot him twice in the back.

They considered that there was evidence on which a Jury could conclude that “The workmen (who were sufficiently distant that they had not yet perceived a threat) would have had ample opportunity to get out of the way had the threat become a real and present danger, and B50’s justification based upon his being threatened on or around Caroline Place was contradicted in circumstances which could (depending on the view taken by the Jury) support a conclusion that it was a deliberate falsehood designed to bolster an untrue case.”

They said the Jury could properly come to the conclusion that B50’s “asserted belief in the imminence of the danger to the workmen was not genuinely held.”

Family say officer and the force had ‘led a misleading narrative’ over the events of the day

Today, in a statement issued through Hudgell Solicitors, Lewis’ sisters Tia, Hayley and Laura, said they hoped the officer and the Chief Constable would now finally accept the findings.

“If this officer, and Humberside Police, have any sense of decency, empathy, and respect for the justice system, they will now surely accept not only the conclusion of a jury who sat through weeks of evidence, but also the Judgment of the High Court which dismissed all of the officer’s grounds for challenge in respect of the way the Inquest was conducted,” they said.

“It is time for him to finally accept he was in the wrong.  It is time for him and the Chief Constable to finally accept what happened to Lewis was wrong.

“Sadly, given what we have been put through as a family ever since the day Lewis was taken from us, we don’t hold out much hope of that happening. Even in the statement the police have made today, this has not happened. You cannot learn from your mistakes until you admit them in the first place.

“From the day Lewis died, this officer, supported by the Chief Constable, has led a misleading narrative that Lewis was a threat to members of the public that day, and that there was no option but to shoot him dead.

“We’d urge anybody who has drawn conclusions from the past media coverage and from the statements of Humberside Police to read today’s judgment and decide for themselves.

“The danger to the public that day was an officer, who was on his first firearms callout in command, who took it upon himself to shoot Lewis twice in the back, when he had not threatened a single person, and as witnesses said, was already out on his feet having been tasered.

“At a time when trust in the police is at an all-time low, when they get things wrong, they should say so.

“Hopefully today marks the end of all this and allows us as a family to focus on remembering Lewis as the person we knew and loved. We’ve never been allowed to focus on grieving for our loss.

Legal team call on police watchdog to consider next steps

Solicitor Neil Hudgell, of Hudgell Solicitors, says the legal team, which includes Tim Moloney KC of Doughty Street Chambers as instructed counsel, are now considering next steps, with the Independent Office of Police Conduct investigation (IOPC), which cleared the officer of any wrongdoing, an immediate focus.

“It simply cannot be right, given an inquest jury has delivered a conclusion of unlawful killing, which the Divisional Court has now upheld by dismissing the objections of the officer, for the original investigation – which accepted B50’s case – not to be placed under significant scrutiny,” he said.

“We believe the investigation fell way below the standards expected. It did not challenge officers’ statements sufficiently with regards to what actually unfolded that day and the decisions that were taken, and simply accepted versions of events which did not stand up against CCTV footage, and other evidence.

“The Court has now underlined what the family always believed – there is nothing in the evidence about what happened to Lewis to render the conclusion he was unlawfully killed unsafe.

“The fact that there were no misconduct proceedings, or a referral to the CPS for potential criminal conduct, following the initial IOPC investigation is a significant consideration, both for the family and for the wider public interest in accountability in respect of the use of lethal force by police officers.

“We are in contact with the IOPC and advising the family on next steps.”

The Skelton family are represented by Neil Hudgell, Leanne Stephenson and Adam Biglin, of Hudgell Solicitors, and Tim Moloney KC and Angela Patrick, of Doughty Street Chambers.

On this page

Family of Lewis Skelton call for Humberside Police officer and Chief Constable to “finally admit what happened was wrong” as ‘unlawful killing’ verdict upheld by High Court

Start my claim
Start my claim